Album Review: Rules To Break by Teenage Cenobite

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From the post-punk of Unmaker and Serqet to the gothier leanings of Shadow Age, there’s a dark ‘80s resurgence going on in Richmond these days, something that’s definitely not a bad thing. Rules To Break, the new EP from local up-and-comer Hank Allen and his Teenage Cenobite project, fits in with this ‘80s resurgence, standing tall alongside those aforementioned bands, albeit in a weirder, more ill-defined slot.

 

Lucky for Teenage Cenobite, there is Anti-Everything, a local imprint focusing mostly on noise that was recently dusted off and resurrected by Gary Stevens (Mutwawa, Head Molt). It’s here that Teenage Cenobite finds a home, and while this release has aspirations of noise to fit in within Anti-Everything’s growing discography, those going in expecting a barrage of cacophony thrown out are going to be surprised. Pleasantly surprised though.

Album opener “Smiling Troublemaker” glides along on clanky drum machine beats and even corresponding handclaps, but where you might expect glitch palpitations or overblown fuzz, it instead grooves with a melody that you’ll find yourself humming hours after listening. Title track “Rules To Break” seems to come home to noise, starting with a swath of it before settling into a fast pace. Imagine Twitch-era Ministry if they didn’t themselves too seriously.

 

Key track “Bronze” takes a sorrowful Joy Division motif with Allen utilizing a more subdued vocal approach, while repetitive beats and keyboard plinks are sprinkled throughout. Directly following that, “Midnight Advice,” “Deadlight Mutant Prank Call,” and the remaining track show off some noisier elements, which seem to root it firmly within the Anti-Everything aesthetic, even if they aim for something clearer and grander.

All in all, Rules To Break is a surprisingly engaging and fun debut with enough noise elements to keep that crowd happy, but with catchy melodies that you can hang on to. I don’t know if the ‘80s homage is meant as satire or comes from a place of genuine adoration, but whatever the intent or context, it works… and works extremely well.

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